The ignorance that kills

Estrada, Duterte, Arroyo, Marcos
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Within months of his coming to power in 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte’s profanities, tirades, threats, outrageous remarks about women, human rights, heads of foreign states, and what he was actually doing, had called the attention of international media — in Japan, the United States and Europe — to what was happening in the Philippines.
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Repeating history

Duterte with soldiers in Marawi on martial law anniversary
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There was hardly any question about it. The dominance of the Duterte “supermajority” in both houses of Congress made the one-year extension of martial law in Mindanao certain, and even the members of the political opposition in the House of Representatives and the Senate, who nevertheless voted against it, predicted congressional approval of President Rodrigo Duterte’s request.

Mr. Duterte’s Congressional allies had the numbers but apparently neither the welfare, peace of mind, safety or rights of the Mindanaoans and the country in mind, nor the legal justification on their side — or even a sense of history.

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Killing hope

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The killing of young people, minors and children that have been blamed on the police of the Duterte regime is not without precedent.

The same atrocities were committed by the then PC-INP (Philippine Constabulary Integrated National Police) and the military of which it was then a part during the Marcos terror regime, which even before the declaration of martial law in 1972 was already abducting and murdering youth activists. Both are crimes against the future that is the youth’s promise. There is a difference between the intent of one and that of the other, but their consequences are the same.
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Imminent danger

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Never mind the 2017 Duterte State of the Nation Address, which was replete with profanities, self-serving claims of current and future progress on various fronts, among them the regime’s brutal and failing war on drugs, and justifications for the use of unaccountable State violence. Take his so-called assurance that he won’t place the entire country under martial law with a reasonable amount of skepticism. All SONAs are after all political and since Commonwealth days have served the ends of every Philippine regime without exception.

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The past in the present

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If those who fear martial law are “living in the past,” it is because much of that past, with or without martial law, is still very much in the present. Human rights defenders are still under threat, and farmer leaders, indigenous people, protesters and political activists harassed and even killed, even as a brutal “war on drugs” that presumes guilt rather than innocence continues to claim dozens of lives every week at the hands of a police force emboldened by President Rodrigo Duterte’s frequent assurances of impunity, or exemption from punishment.

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Refuge of scoundrels

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TO Samuel Johnson (born 1709; died 1784), poet, essayist and author of A Dictionary of the English Language (published in April, 1755), do we owe the observation that “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”

His biographer James Boswell (born 1740; died 1795) claimed that Johnson wasn’t condemning patriotism but how it was being misused by the unscrupulous to justify even the foulest of deeds. If that was indeed what Johnson meant, he was not not only being astutely observant about his times; he was also being prophetic. Scoundrels have indeed used patriotism, or love of country, to justify even the worst crimes.

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Villain in hero’s guise

Ferdinand Marcos
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The Libingan ng mga Bayani is not, as it name suggests, literally a heroes’ cemetery. Soldiers, policemen, and former Philippine presidents can be buried there, apparently on the tenuous presumption that by having worn a police or military uniform, or being elected to the Philippine presidency, an individual becomes a hero — meaning an exemplar of humanity, and worthy of emulation for, presumably, having risen above the limits of personal, familial and class interests in behalf of country and people.

Most dictionaries define heroes and heroism in less socially redeeming terms. A hero, says the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities,” or “a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability.”

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Earning credibility

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Ferdinand E. Marcos, the Philippine government’s Official Gazette’s social media post finally said in its third revision of the caption accompanying the late dictator’s September 11 birthday photo, was “the longest serving President of the country for almost 21 years.”

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Defending EDCA, setting the rules

Junk EDCA (Sarah Raymundo/Arkibong Bayan)
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Although critical of President Benigno Aquino III, Senate minority leader—and former Marcos defense minister—Juan Ponce Enrile verbalized what the Aquino administration hasn’t been explicitly saying about the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). Speaking to the media a day after the Supreme Court ruling that EDCA is an executive agreement rather than a treaty and therefore did not need Senate approval, Enrile declared that the country needs EDCA because “we cannot protect our people since we don’t have credible defense forces.”

The Enrile argument in favor of EDCA echoed what had either been merely implied in the Aquino administration’s defense of it, or broadly hinted at by its other supporters: because the Philippine military cannot defend the Philippines, it’s up to the United States to do it. It’s an argument as hoary with age as EDCA’s latest advocate, having been first raised in 1946 by Manuel Roxas, and repeated ad nauseam by a succession of so-called Philippine leaders during the Cold War era.

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